If you haven’t liked any of Sonic’s previous 3D outings then things couldn’t be simpler: Don’t bother with this one. Sure, it’s quite an improvement over them (the Sonic bits, anyway) but you still almost certainly won’t like it. It’s as simple as that.
But as this is my review, and I liked most of Sonic’s 3D games (Heroes was meh and 06 was bleh) then I suppose I should talk about why I think this one is the best 3D Sonic so far.
First of all is the new gimmick that these new Sonic games seem to need to pad themselves out (because fast-paced platformers don’t quite work as long games…hence why the originals were short but brilliant and yet Sega seem to want to make Sonic games long anyway): the Warehog.
Unfortunately, roughly half the game (perhaps more, time-wise) takes place as the Warehog. It’s essentially an easy, child-friendly Ninja Gaiden, but with a bit more focus on the platforming. Platforming with the Warehog is slow-paced and requires some precision jumping. At first it seems that you also need to be spot on with tapping the B button to grab poles and ledges, but it’s actually a lot simpler than that (as revealed by someone TOWARDS THE END OF THE DAMN GAME!): you just have to hold the B button and the Warehog will automatically grab when he needs to.
The Warehog levels are a decent distraction, and it could have been a lot worse. What I did find really annoying was unlocking levels, as the game never really tells you. It’s obvious that you need to collect sun and moon medals throughout the levels in order to access later ones, but you also need to speak to a professor (whom you meet early on) after every few levels in order to unlock more. The game also confused me with accessing boss fights: the first few take you straight from the level to the boss fight, but after that you have to go to the boss fight from the game’s Hub. It’s quite confusing the first time decides to do it (as there are also some optional levels on top of the main ones). It’s annoying and really could have been solved simply.
Anyway, let’s get onto the proper Sonic levels. This time, they contain 3D “running away from the camera” parts and 2D “traditional” bits. They merge into each other extremely well, and the levels have a brilliant flow to them. There’s also the odd set-piece thrown into the mix which lets you relax and take in the views. There’s quite a bit of trial-and-error to some parts…but I always found that it was the same with the old games, too. It’s part of the genre: you don’t get far without experimentation.
There are plenty of alternate routes which make use of different abilities that you can pick up (like the wall jump and lightspeed dash – which allows you to zoom through a stretch of rings). The grinding is back (but works well, unlike Sonic and the Secret Rings, thanks to the use of the shoulder buttons) and the camera is never really a problem (the only way it could be better is if they zoomed it out…but then it would be hard to see Sonic). The only problem I found was the odd fiddly part, and that sometimes Sonic would boost instead of doing a homing attack. Overall they’re a lot of fun and great for replaying after you’ve completed the game.
There are also a ton of extra, optional missions, with various objectives (collect items, complete modified parts of levels in a certain time, kill enemies, etc) as well as some quests which revolve around talking to the large amount of NPCs (normal humans). If you really don’t want to talk to these and listen to their rather dull stories then don’t worry: you only have to speak to a small amount to complete the main game. Completing the main quest isn’t too hard, but completing everything in the game is extremely difficult, but not impossible. Hopefully. As for the story: it’s there and it isn’t that bad. Like most platform games it’s just there for the sake of having a story.
The Warehog sections are enjoyable, but you won’t go back to them after completing them; the Sonic levels are brilliant and great for re-playing; the Hub is confusing, but isn’t a problem if you’ve read this review; there’s a ton of extra stuff which is entirely option (which quite a few reviews say is a bad thing for some bizarre reason). Sonic Unleashed is very enjoyable if you still like Sonic but, as said at the start, it isn’t going to sway any haters any time soon.